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How to Break Up with Your Agency

Dec 07 2020

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A Complete Guide on How & Why to Break Up with Your Digital Agency

Are you unable to draw significant value from your agency across growth and efficiency? Is your professional relationship not working out? Are you thinking about breaking up with your current agency? Maybe you don’t know how. You are not alone in this situation. In fact, Dominos recently selected ‘Work In Progress’ as its agency after ending up a long relationship with MDC Partners. Motel 6 and The Home Depot cut ties with the Richards Group.

There comes a time in an agency’s life where it no longer delivers a significant value to its client. If you start to feel that the relationship you have built with your agency is not paying off your business anymore, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship. And the process begins with analyzing your agency’s performance to determine if cutting ties is a wise decision.

Why do you Need a Switch from Agencies?

Sometimes you cut the cords of an agency relationship due to the gap in expectations. Growth brands want re-invention by bringing new thoughts to uplift a particular function of a business. In some cases, you need strong talent, creative minds, strategic thinkers, and business consultants to shape your business while keeping future needs in mind. Reasons may vary from organization to organization, but here are some reasons you may consider switching agencies.

Your agency does not understand your business completely or holistically.

  • You don’t know the real people behind the work product.
  • You don’t feel like you are getting fresh and innovative ideas.
  • Agencies are lacking in strategic leadership roles
  • Key people like Architects and Consultants are always missing during the calls

Factors to consider Before breaking up with your agency

Even if you feel like you no longer can sustain with the current digital agency, it is still best practice to understand the performance disconnects so that you can make a clean break. Moreover, identifying weakness areas will help you gain the experience so you can make better partnership decisions next time.

Take a closer look at the three questions before making a transition

Does Your Agency Practice What They Preach?

An organization that promises you to do legacy modernization should have a record of revamping and migrating related projects. If it has been a while and you have not paid attention to the technology stack being used, key people running the migration, now it is the right time to do that.

How much experience do they have in handling modernization projects? Do they ensure database intact during modernization? Are they ready to support them during emergencies?

If you can see that they are falling behind in what they promised you, then that is a sign they are either inundated with other client work or they are not proficient at what they claim to be experts at.

Is Your Agency a Misfit in your Business Culture?

As an extension to your business, the agency should understand your business culture. They should be aligned to your objectives. Talk to your team closely and primary point of contact who is interacting with you most of the time. The conversations will help you unfold any areas of concern.

Example Scenario

XPO Logistics, one of the largest logistics and transportation solutions providers, faced some cultural misfit challenges with their digital agency. The organization provides innovative services such as warehousing, assembly, and repair for businesses. To bolster their growth, they were in a need of creating strong technology systems that would help thousands of internal staff, drivers, and technicians to get their job done quickly and efficiently. Their previous agency, not having the industry breadth and depth, was not able to drive value. It was a business culture misfit and that’s why the Logistics player turned to Icreon to develop a one-size-fits-all solution that helps fulfill their need to support new customers and bring agility into their entire logistics function.

Is the Association with Your Agency Worth the Money?

It is always important to keep a tab on the work that your digital innovation agency does for you. Is it on the budget and time that you have provided or expected? If at the end of the day, you feel that your relationship with the incumbent agency is not showing a return on your investment, it may be time to reiterate your expectations.

Rather than firing the agency just because you don’t feel the positive impact of their work, give them a chance while reiterating your business goals. Having that proof in hand can help you make further decisions.

When is the Right Time to Change Your Agency?

There are three important areas that form the foundation of a professional relationship with your agency. Its People, Process and Work Product. Whenever there is a misalignment in any of these, then there are chances that you’re not getting the most out of the engagement.

People refer to the key agency members who are involved in the business project. Consultants, Project Managers, Solution Architects, Leads and Engineers. A right balance of people is needed – from the leadership team who are actually making big picture recommendations for the business to the actual team, including engineers and designers who are shaping up the vision.

The next important area is Process, which means how your agency is going to achieve what is needed. What kind of processes does the agency follow to support growth? Are they following agile process and making retrospective productive?

The third one is the Work Product, that includes the industry experience and expertise of the agency to shape the desired work product that aligns perfectly with the business needs.

When thinking about the People, Process and Work Product, here are some surefire signs to say goodbye to your agency.

Consistent Performance Issues

Consistent performance issues lead to distrust in any client-agency relationship. This comes when there is a misalignment between people and processes. Every agency makes errors and disappoints the client at some point. However, if poor performance is happening on a consistent basis that means the agency is not strategically approaching projects, does not understand your brand and cannot execute your brand products. This is probably a good reason for the shift.

Lack of Transparency

When your agency is not revealing the people, who are working and executing the project and what processes are in place, that simply indicates that something wrong is happening under the hood. The agency should be transparent about the processes and well-communicate what they are doing for you.

Losing Valuable Support

Sometimes you want to extend your business functions through the current work product. You may find that your agency is not capable of providing that valuable support in the hour of need. Their processes are not mature enough to meet the scalable requirements. The agency does not have specialists in that areas so that crises can be managed.

Unethical Attempts

Your agency is trying to do something unethical or illegal. This may include tampering with bills and invoices or attempting to misuse intellectual property rights. You don’t want to do work with an agency that does not know the best practices and how to do the right thing.

How to Best Manage the End of Relationship

Onboarding a new digital agency requires careful vetting of new stakeholders, management practices, and other checklists. Make sure to preserve your brand sentiments, security, and other assets by handling the end of the relationship carefully.

Here are some pointers that you should bear in mind.

Review your Contract

Learn about the contract or agreement that you had signed with your agency. If it has some obligations to do before termination, make sure you follow the guidelines to avoid challenges down the line.

Get Access to Your Assets

Before telling your team about making a transition, prepare a checklist of all assets and deliverables the agency has access to. You have to make sure that you have official copies of everything that you have paid for them during the tenure.

Ask your agency about Knowledge Transfer

Your agency has access to a number of software tools and services to perform their work for you. And if you have been associated for a long term, they may have critical institutional knowledge that needs to be handed over. Ask for knowledge transfer in terms of documenting processes and providing training, etc.

End Things on a Positive Note

There are a number of reasons as stated above in this post to terminate the agency. Let them know the exact reason and provide feedback so that they can work on those areas and improve further. Never burn bridges. Take the steps needed to end on a positive note.

Important Things to Consider while Finding Better Agencies

Considering the above listed areas, if you have found out that your incumbent agency does not have the potential to support your business growth and lack somewhere, then this is the time to make a move. Choosing the right digital agency for your business will depend on your unique business requirements.

Experience Matters

Experience matters a lot when you hire a digital agency for your mission-critical business applications. Know the team, experience of their key senior members, strategists, developers, designers, etc. You should consider how they leverage their industry experience to deliver benefits to your business.

For example, an American contemporary art gallery, David Zwirner, turned to Icreon as their next Digital Agency on the basis of its profound experience in Digital Strategy and Implementation. The experienced team worked on its existing operations without impacting ongoing functions and customer base. In parallel, the team made a blueprint by assessing the system to better align with future needs and created a modernized system for sales automation and personalization on Sitecore.

Work-Culture Fitment

It is highly important to choose an agency that understands your business culture to deliver a work product that is fine attuned to your needs. For example, if you are in the healthcare business and want a work product for better patient care from the agency, then you should find an agency that knows the language of your business, aware of regulatory compliances, etc.

Approach and Attitude

From an operational standpoint, you should analyze the agency by checking out their approach to deal with the complexities of the project. Are they up to date with the latest technology trends and industry best practices? Do they have the ability to execute enterprise scale applications?

Final Thoughts

It is hard to end a long existing relationship with your agency. Discuss and make your points clear about your expectations and the shortcomings at their end. When possible, understand their concern and give them time to overcome their weakness. And when things seem unworkable, make your decisions, and move forward.

Finding a leading digital agency to work on your digital transformation project! Get in touch with us. We’ve helped a number of clients in making their switch seamless and trustworthy.